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Fruit, vegetable exporters get Dutch aid in cracking Europe   2008-06-03 - ThanhNienNews

A Dutch state agency will provide training to exporters of fresh fruits and vegetables in Ho Chi Minh City and four southern provinces to enable them to increase exports to the European Union (EU).

Protectionism, poor quality and small size mean Europe remains a high-hanging fruit  



To begin this month, the Center for the Promotion of Imports from Developing Countries’ three-year program will train businesses in marketing, apprise them about the EU market and provide technical support to improve quality.

Businesses in HCMC, Dong Thap, Binh Thuan, Vinh Long and Lam Dong will take part in the program.

Jos Leeters, an expert from the center, said the training would help Vietnamese traders better manage production and improve quality and marketing for easier access to the EU market.

Similar programs had helped some other developing countries achieve 17 percent growth in the export of fresh vegetables, fruits and flowers to the EU, he said.

It hopes to make 30 percent of the fruits and vegetables grown in the region suitable for export to the EU by 2010.

Vietnam exported US$300 million worth of fruits and vegetables to 50 countries and territories last year.

But exports to the 27-member EU remained negligible at just €107,600 ($167,153) in 2006.

However, the EU’s total imports of fruits and vegetables that year were €30 billion ($ 46.6 billion).

Ly Hai Long, export manager of the Bao Thanh Company, said Vietnamese exports to the EU were gradually falling.

“That’s partly because the EU’s quality barrier is increasingly stricter,” Long said.

“Another reason is the unfair competition among Vietnamese companies which has hurt quality.”

Tu Minh Thien, director of the Ho Chi Minh City Center for Agricultural Consultancy and Support, said many of Vietnam’s fruit and vegetable exports to the EU, including mango, pineapple, litchi, longan, banana, blue dragon, avocado, mangosteen, durian, chili, yam, cabbage, cucumber and eggplant, lacked clear origin and quality.

$1 billion mark targeted

China is the largest buyer of Vietnam’s fruits and vegetables, accounting for about 60 percent of its exports.

The other major markets are Japan, Taiwan, Russia and the US

Exports in the first four months this year were worth over $118 million, and trade officials expect the whole year’s figure to be $350 million.

They aim to double that by 2010.

But the quality and volume of farm produce exports have been inconsistent due to the small scale of production and poor storage facilities, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

The average size of a vegetable farm was 200-300 square meters and that of a fruit orchard 1,000 square meters, the ministry said.

The small size precluded the use of advanced technologies to improve quality and yield, while storage facilities were both insufficient and in poor condition, it added.

The ministry plans to bring 1 million hectares of land nationwide under vegetables and fruits by 2010.

Almost a fourth of this would be used for growing vegetables for export.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat said the ministry would also invest more money in improving fruit and vegetable strains to improve productivity and quality.

It will focus on 10 varieties of fruits for export, including orange, tangerine, grapefruit, pineapple, mango, longan and blue dragon.

Shoppers browse vegetables at a HCMC supermarket.

Trade officials set shipments of fruits and vegetables to increase to $1 billion in 2015 from this year’s expected $350 million.

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